sophiacatherine: Ruined church, County Cork, Ireland (ruined-church)
2014-03-11 05:20 pm

American imperialism and Pagan/polytheist paths

There's been a lot of talk of privilege online recently. No one's talking about what, in my humble opinion, is one of the biggest forms of privilege in online Paganism. Forgive me if I rant about privilege for a little bit. I'm not trying to be mean to anyone, or to put anyone's back up. I'm trying to say what it feels like to be non-American in internet-based greater Pagandom.

Most Gaelic/Celtic recon is, if we're really honest, very North American. (I suspect that most recon in general is very American.) It's not even just Irish-in-diaspora -- it's Irish-in-American-diaspora. This makes a lot of it seem very odd to me as Anglo-Irish, and no doubt it seems even more alien to people who are home-grown Irish. Here are just a few things that I find entirely alien in American Gaelic polytheism:

- A non-land-focused approach. My CR/GP is about the land. Well, lands, plural, really. It could never put mythology before land.
- A highly literalist approach that elevates myth to the position of a bible. (Medieval myth. That was written by Christians.) That's incredibly American, and (in my opinion) quite alien to many Europeans.
- An approach that tries to unify pre-Christian Ireland into one country, and (even worse) tries to unify pre-Christian Irish belief into one set of beliefs. That's so far from the evidence, it's ridiculous. Yet I get shouted down if I argue that, no, we cannot be sure whether ancient Gaels believed they were going to Tech Duinn or Manannan's realm, because the question is utterly nonsensical to start with.
- A majority of believers who have never been to Ireland or Britain, but who don't acknowledge that there are therefore some things they will see VERY differently to people in Ireland and Britain.
- An approach that privileges academia over mysticism in a way that doesn't work for me at all. I'm very academic. I want my religion to be rooted in good scholarship. But there are other things besides academia.

The path that feels most Brythonic to me (although definitely not Gaelic) is modern British druidry. The 'British' qualifier is necessary because British druidry is TOTALLY different from US druidry - something that is rarely acknowledged over on the other side of the pond. (I'm always being told what druidry is like. The assertions usually come from a place where the speaker is familiar with exactly one kind of druidry - ADF druidry. That is by no means the only kind of druidry out there. OBOD is *much* bigger than ADF, if we're just playing a numbers game. But still the assertions are made, using terminology that comes from Americans and based in situations that I don't recognise.) British druidry is incredibly flexible and fluid. It is NOT 'mesopagan' or whatever Isaac Bonewitz called it (presumably without having met many British druids), but it's nothing like American neopagan druidry. It is very Pagan, but it's very uniquely *British Pagan*. Modern British druidry is becoming its own thing, its own tradition almost - a new generation that has followed *after* revival druidry, rooted in it, but going in entirely different, entirely new directions. It is often very Brythonic, with a peculiarly British kind of polytheism that defies theistic definitions, but which ultimately doesn't have to be about the gods (and often isn't), because these are gods who emerge from the land, and you can believe in the land (and have relationship with it) without worrying about your theology. A lot of this is what I sort of imagine the Brythonic tribespeople were like - especially the non-priests among them. Ironic that a very real-life hearth-and-land spirituality has emerged from something called 'druidry', but it strikes me that that's what it is for most practitioners. A few are on more of a priestly path, but only with the constant consent of their community. It is very non-hierarchical, very modern Pagan, very British.

Druidry is my larger community. But I'm not sure if I can call myself a modern druid. Not yet, anyway. Partly that's because of the misconceptions the term engenders, but that's not the only reason. But that would be another journal entry entirely. The point is that I'm looking for a Gaelic path that works with this modern Brythonic one. And I'm not sure the answer is American-style Gaelic reconstructionism. So what is it?

Could there ever be a European form of Gaelic reconstructionism? What would it look like?

sophiacatherine: (Default)
2013-07-17 05:11 pm

Lá Lúnasa

It's that time again - another High Day. I don't know how they come around so fast. Anyway, I'm leading a ritual with my OBOD grove and I need to do my ADF rite and write the Lá Lúnasa/Lughnasadh essay, so I've been doing a bit of reading. Decided to draft my Lá Lúnasa essay here, before I improve it a bit for the ADF DP documents. 

There's some interesting research about Lughnasadh. One of the best books on the subject of Irish festivals, from a reconstructionist perspective, is 'The Year in Ireland' (1972), which talks about the folk traditions of hill gatherings, harvest fairs, games of agility, strength and skill, and some wonderfully fun references to dunking cattle and sheep in water. Ronald Hutton (1991, p.??)* argues that Lughnasadh is the only Irish festival where a pre-Christian survival is fairly likely, thanks to Máire MacNeill's comprehensive study 'The Festival of Lughnasa', (Hutton 1991, MacNeill 1962). MacNeill argues that pre-Christian customs may have included meals of harvest fare, bull sacrifices, renditions of the story of Lugh's triumph over Balor, and bonfires and visits to holy wells (MacNeill, 1962, p.426). Cunliffe (1997, p.185) also asserts that a celebration of Lugh was central to Lughnasadh, but Hutton (1991, p.??) focuses more closely on the harvest and first-fruits aspects of the festival.

Of course, while interesting, not all of this relates to the way that modern neo-Pagans celebrate Lughnasadh, which is part of what ADF wants us to write about. Drawing from the scholarship, it's possible to see the inspiration that modern Pagans, polytheists and reconstructionists have taken from earlier reports of Lughnasadh celebrations: common modern themes are harvest, celebrations of Lugh's triumph over Balor (and/or the myth of his foster mother Tailtiu), and sometimes games of skill. At this point, Wiccans are celebrating Lammas, sometimes including the stage in the god-cycle where the god begins to decline, while revivalist druids tend to be focusing on the harvest cycle and the cutting down of the corn, which probably has echoes in British folklore. [NB: Referencing of these points will happen when I can find the books that I read that said these things...!] However, the diversity of the neo-Pagan movement, with its many paths (e.g. Adler, 1979), means that there is a wide variety of ways in which each of these festivals is celebrated by neo-Pagans today (where it is at all). I personally like to focus on harvest and on the stories of Lugh (both the myth of Tailtiu and the story of his defeat of Balor). I'll be organizing the Lughnasadh ritual for my OBOD grove, which will focus on the metaphorical harvest of crafts, stories and triumphs that members of the grove will bring to the event. In my personal celebration of Lá Lúnasa, along with my own COoR rite, I will honour Lugh with an offering of my skills.

Adler, Margot (1979), Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America. New York City: Viking Press.
Danaher, Kevin (1972), The Year in Ireland: Irish Calendar Customs. Dublin and Cork: Mercia Press.
Hutton, Ronald (1991), The Pagan Religions of the British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford: Blackwell.
MacNeill, Máire (1962), The Festival of Lughnasa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

*I have lent this book to a friend, so I won't be able to verify this or give a page number until I write the final essay. I'm fairly sure that's what he says, though!
sophiacatherine: Ruined church, County Cork, Ireland (ruined-church)
2013-04-21 09:19 am

This Is a Sticky

My main journal can be found at .

This is my rambling place - a lot of entries here will be private, with most others friends-only. Here I'll be pondering ADF Dedicant Path work, rambling about personal practice, pondering deities, divination and so on, and generally scribbling thoughts that relate to Paganism in my life. Also probably more everyday stuffs about disability, from EDS to Asperger's, and being a disabled postgrad student, and suchlike.

I copy most of these posts over to livejournal, where I have the same username, but I don't really interact over there.
sophiacatherine: (firetree)
2012-09-28 10:13 am

An Autumn Equinox Rite

Three parts - meditation, offerings, affirmations.

We don't know if we can continue to use the grove that the group has been meeting in for dozens of years. We gave offerings in thanks to the spirits who have hosted us there for a long time.

Anonymous cards for each other. Mine: "You are strong enough to walk your own path."

Highly appropriate, when I don't feel like I even know where to start looking for it (although 'hold things in balance' is the advice that keeps turning up). The card is going on the altar so I can contemplate it in this more think-y half of the year.

It's been a really bad week of frustrating doctor's appointments and not feeling well enough to do the enormous piles of work that just keep growing. I'm not really in a spiritual mood - at all. But tonight I want to try dedicating the dark half of the year to Bui, giving my about-once-yearly offering to Aengus mac Og and Boann, and starting to bring the Morrigan back into my consciousness (I have red wine and whiskey for her) before I honour her in a major way at Samhain. I think that's enough not-at-all-reconstructionist-enough offerings for one Equinox!

I promised a fellow polytheist an offering to Lugh on his behalf, and I keep getting flashes of things that Lugh would appreciate, but I want to give him his own ritual. Soon.
sophiacatherine: (Default)
2012-09-15 06:51 pm


It's mildly amusing that I spent the morning creating a new journal here, and then spent the afternoon updating my old one (see this latest post). I think I was bashed over the head by a couple of goddesses. They certainly wouldn't let me stop writing until I had finished. (At one point I thought 'I should really go and meditate on this', at which point I was strongly informed that the offering and the transformation were in the writing.)

I'm not the world's greatest writer, and it takes me a lot of time and effort. I think that both of those things might be why Brighid, Ogma and some other deities demand the sheer hard work (and blood and sweat and literal tears) that goes into the transformative experience of writing. I'm never going to be able to dedicate a marathon to any of them. Maybe one day I can dedicate a book. Failing that, at least a few more blog posts.